A – ANZAC DAY
Congratulations to everybody for showing the incredibly important day the respect it thoroughly deserves. The AFL has contributed significantly to the day since 1995 and the now traditional Anzac Eve clash between Richmond and Melbourne is such a perfect lead-up to the Collingwood and Essendon showdown the following day. We shouldn’t forget the NRL either. The pre-match ceremony for the Melbourne Storm v New Zealand Warriors clash under lights on April 25 was outstanding also. Well done everyone … to those here and abroad.
B – BREAKER MORANT
Minnesota Timberwolves fans were on good terms with themselves when their side led the Memphis Grizzlies 99-88 with less than seven minutes remaining in game five of their NBA first-round play-off series. Enter Ja Morant. The brilliant young guard almost single-handedly lifted the Grizzlies to a 111-109 win, breaking the hearts of the Timberwolves with 18 fourth-quarter points, including a lay-up as time expired. He finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in a display that only enhanced his standing in the league.
C – CINDERELLA STORY
The Perth Wildcats’ pain is the Tasmania JackJumpers’ gain. Under the guidance of former Wildcats assistant Scott Roth, the JackJumpers secured the most unlikely of play-off berths this week in their first season in the NBL. And it was no fluke. They were able to take down the Wildcats 85-83 at RAC Arena late last month and over the weekend just gone, beat Melbourne United to heap all the pressure on Perth. Even though Tasmania were outclassed by United in game one of the play-offs last night, they return home for game two.
D – D-DAY
There are contrasting schools of thought regarding what is attainable for Richmond in 2022. Some view the Tigers as top-eight contenders, whereas there are others who feel the dynasty is over and they will miss September action for the second year in succession. Irrespective of where you sit, we can all agree that tonight’s assignment against a vulnerable West Coast is non-negotiable. If Richmond are unable to rise above the challenge of a five-day break and inflict the Eagles’ third straight loss, they will be 2-5 and long odds to be active in the post-season.
E – ELITE STANDARDS
This applies to both Elite Street and the composition of the Group 3 Northam Stakes (1100m) at Northam on Sunday. This is a serious race for serious horses, as evidenced by the fact that eight of the 11 runners are rated 102 or above. And the biggest and the baddest of them all is the 2020 Winterbottom Stakes winner Elite Street, who resumes on the weekend and is almost certain to jump favourite. His most recent trial was nothing more than a track gallop. Chris Parnham will settle off his rivals and then hope that Elite Street’s ability to produce sectionals that are, well elite to put it mildly, prove the difference. Great race.
F – FAMILY TIES
Who said romance in the AFL or AFLW is dead? Erin Phillips’ announcement earlier this week that she intended to be part of the Port Adelaide women’s side’s inaugural campaign was magnificent. Phillips only recently won her third AFLW flag with the Crows and now heads back to Alberton where her father Greg won eight premierships during a stellar 343-game career with Port. She is also the sister-in-law to 2004 Port Adelaide premiership star and recently retired great Shaun Burgoyne.
G – GAG HIM
Phil “Gus” Gould boasts a rugby league CV which few others can lay claim to. But he can be divisive and unnecessarily disruptive. It was the case again this week when he unloaded on the Canterbury Bulldogs players at training. Gould, who is the Bulldogs’ general manager of football, let it be known to the players that he wasn’t satisfied with their performances in 2022 and then ran a training session instead of under-fire coach Trent Barrett. There are many in the game who would prefer Gould to be seen and not heard.
H – HEATING UP
We are still waiting for the first-round action of the NBA play-offs to wrap up, but there is no denying the stakes are well and truly being raised from here on in. The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have thrown down the gauntlet to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference after eclipsing the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets respectively, while in the Western Conference, last season’s finalists the Phoenix Suns had their neck stretched by the New Orleans Pelicans at the same time the Golden State Warriors cruised past the Denver Nuggets.
I – IN THE HOT SEAT
Ben Stokes always loomed as the successor to Joe Root as skipper of England’s Test team. A born leader, he has alpha male tendencies and considering the Poms’ plight in the red-ball format right now, that is undeniably positive. Stokes craves winning and has already made it known he wants veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad back in the line-up for the opening Test of the English summer against New Zealand at Lord’s.
J – JARRING
Ben Simmons has got a fair bit of work to do physically and mentally to regain some trust inside the Brooklyn Nets’ locker room. Simmons intended to play in game four of the Nets’ first-round Eastern Conference series against Boston, only to announce he wasn’t ready. It led to fierce backlash from several former players and media critics, in particular Stephen A. Smith, who labelled him “the weakest, most pathetic excuse for a professional athlete we have ever seen, not just in American history, but the history of sports”. The ball is now in Simmons’ court.
K – KNEED TO DO MORE
In the space of an hour on Tuesday, we learnt both Brodie Grundy and Marc Pittonet would be sidelined for extended periods after suffering posterior cruciate ligament damage at centre bouncedowns. Their setbacks inevitably led to furious debate over whether more needed to be done to protect ruckmen inside the centre square. No longer do big men charge at each other like wild animals, with rules changed to guard against the injuries back in the day that impacted Michael Gardiner, Beau McDonald and even Adam Goodes. That’s not to say a further tweak isn’t required.
L – LADY LUCK
The TABtouch market says Lady Chant will need more than her share of good fortune to take out the Group 1 Australasian Oaks (2000m) at Morphettville tomorrow. But trainer Brock Lewthwaite has done a terrific job with the daughter of War Chant, claiming the Group 3 WA Oaks (2400m) as a maiden and then rattling home to finish fifth behind Alaskan God in the Group 2 WATC Derby (2400m) a fortnight later. This is a rise in grade and the trip perhaps short of her best, but hopefully she is strong to the line and the Eastern States campaign consists of more than one run.
M – MORE THE MERRIER
West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett penned a letter to Eagles members this week, telling them to show their true colours and pack out Optus Stadium for tonight’s clash with Richmond. The Eagles faithful are restless at present and vision of fans leaving the ground before half-time of the loss to Sydney a fortnight ago, was hard to stomach. If the fans do heed Nisbett’s urgings and rock up en masse, it is incumbent on the team to produce a performance that is up to scratch.
N – NEXT GEN
Excitement had been building over the past fortnight leading up to this morning’s NFL Draft in Las Vegas. The draft is big business in the States and the fanfare surrounding the annual lottery only increased this year by it being staged in Sin City. Perennial strugglers, the Jacksonville Jaguars had the prized first selection and used it to acquire Georgia defensive Travon Walker. He was part of a stacked Georgia defence that led the team to the National Championship and has the explosive skill set that recruiting staff drool over. Walker is the first non-quarterback to be selected first overall since Myles Garrett in 2017.
O – OVERSEAS TRAVEL
It is back on the agenda for the Australian cricket side. Squads were this morning revealed for the tour to Sri Lanka, starting in June, which will consist of two Tests, five ODIs and three T20s. It will mark Andrew McDonald’s first tour as coach on a permanent basis after he oversaw the 1-0 series win in Pakistan on an interim basis. WA trio Josh Inglis, Mitch Marsh and Ashton Agar were included in all three squads, but Jhye Richardson, fresh off losing his Cricket Australia contract, could only fit into the T20 squad.
P – PLEASE EXPLAIN
Can someone outline the reasons behind Essendon being afforded the privilege of playing three successive Friday night games mid-season? The AFL yesterday released the schedule for all of rounds 12 through to 15 and the Bombers will feature in the marquee slot three times. They were quite rightly allowed to host traditional rivals Carlton in round 13 to honour their 150th anniversary, but they also have Friday night dates with St Kilda and West Coast. The last time I checked, Essendon were 1-5 and sitting in 16th position on the ladder.
Q – QUEEN AT ASCOT
Not The Queen, rather Sentimental Queen made an appearance on Anzac Day at summer headquarters. And for trainer Hayden Ballantyne and connections, it was one to remember. Always likely to obtain a lovely run in transit, the mare burst through a gap shortly after straightening to claim the $100,000 Diggers Cup (1800m), rounding out a seven-start campaign that yielded three wins.
R – RED ALERT
How good is it having the WA borders open again? Granted, it has been a while now, but the news this week that Manchester United, Leeds United, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace are coming to WA as part of a pre-season tour gave everyone who loves the world game an extra pep in their step. Manchester United have promised to bring a full squad to Perth and that includes Cristiano Ronaldo, who is under contract to the Red Devils for another season.
S – STORM WARNING
At half-time of Monday night’s clash between the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors, opinions were divided on who would be victorious. The Storm led the Kiwis 16-10, but a Warriors fightback wouldn’t have been a complete shock. What followed was a complete shock. Melbourne piled on seven tries in 21 minutes in the second half and then added a further three to round out the second 40 minutes to prevail 70-10. It was breathtaking rugby league. Almost like watching the Harlem Globetrotters on grass.
T – TALL ORDER
Fremantle have done a wonderful job so far in 2022 to prove their finals credentials. Their 5-1 start has exceeded the expectations of everyone outside the four walls of Cockburn and proved that under Simon Garlick, Justin Longmuir and Peter Bell, this club is trending the right way. Sadly for the Dockers, that record seems almost certain to read 5-2 after tomorrow’s match against Geelong. No Sean Darcy, Matt Taberner, Heath Chapman and Hayden Young leaves them short-changed for what remains one of the most daunting road trips in the game for interstate sides.
U – UNFATHOMABLE
Given the track record of the Perth Wildcats over a duration spanning more than three decades and what they had been able to achieve during a prolonged road stint this season, it is still difficult to reconcile with their absence from the play-offs. Even though they had no Vic Law late in the campaign because of an ankle injury, all they had to do was beat either Illawarra or South East Melbourne Phoenix to keep their finals streak alive. A Friday night defeat to the Hawks upped the ante for Sunday’s clash with the Phoenix, who prevailed 102-100 to leave basketball fans in this country speechless.
V – VERRY AMBITIOUS
Chris Waller knows Verry Elleegant better than anyone. In saying that, the decision by Waller and connections to extend the mare’s campaign into another season came as a slight surprise. Last year’s Melbourne Cup winner didn’t appear the same horse we have come to expect during the autumn and as a rising seven-year-old, there was a school of thought she might be heading to the breeding barn. Instead she will be heading back into work later in the year and then journey overseas for a Group 1 fillies and mares feature on Champions Day at Ascot.
W – WARRNAMBOOL BOUND
Grant Williams doesn’t need anybody to vouch for his training ability. A proven star at the caper, Williams has won a fistful of Group 1s here and interstate and also boasts a victory with Regal Power in the $5 million All Star Mile. His prowess with stayers is also recognised by those in the industry and while Baronova isn’t the best horse has put a bridle on, she can flat out stay. That much was evident last weekend when she powered to the line at the end of 3100m to win the Road To Jericho WA Qualifier down at Albany. She is now eligible to contest the Jericho Cup (4600m) in Warrnambool in November this year.
X – XAVIER COOKING WITH GAS
Illawarra Hawks coach Brian Goorjian is wired for play-off basketball. Wherever he goes, success invariably follows. The Hawks host the Sydney Kings in game one of the three-match series tonight after leapfrogging their big brothers on Sunday. If Illawarra are to advance to the grand final series, they must curb Xavier Cooks’ influence. Cooks has averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds in Sydney’s last five games. Goorjian needs no reminding of the forward’s talent levels, with two of those matches coming against his side, including a 20-point and 14-rebound haul last weekend.
Y – YZE’S AUDITION
Adem Yze will be hoping to continue an impressive sequence established by interim coaches this season when he takes the reins for Melbourne’s round-seven match against Hawthorn at the MCG. With Simon Goodwin unavailable after entering the AFL’s health and safety protocols, Yze becomes the fifth assistant to step up in 2022. Fremantle’s Jaymie Graham (twice), Ash Hansen (Carlton), Brendon Lade (St Kilda) and Blake Caracella (Essendon) have steered their sides to victory while filling in early into the year. No pressure Adem!!!!
Z – ZOOM CALL
Boom filly Buzzoom had her colours lowered in the Marjorie Charleson Classic (1200m) at Ascot on Good Friday. She didn’t lose any admirers, however. The three-year-old only succumbed to Amasenus by half a length and enjoys a 1.5kg swing in her favour for tomorrow’s rematch in the Listed Sheila Gwynne Classic (1400m), also at Ascot. The rise in distance suits and she will again get a lovely run from another favourable barrier draw.